After opening the season as one of the hottest players in the NHL some may view forward Colin Wilson as the surprise of the Predators lineup, but President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile simply believes the 23-year-old is becoming the player he selected seventh overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
“When we drafted Colin, we saw a big, strong, confident, top-six forward,” Poile said. “I think he is finally starting to blossom into that player. The key to his performance this season is confidence and his maturity both on and off the ice. Colin, not unlike any other young player, has had his ups and downs and he’s certainly had moments of being very effective, but this year we see that he is more mature and that maturity is turning him into a more consistent player, and that consistent player is producing points at the highest rate he has ever produced them in the NHL.”
Wilson has started strong this season after a few growing pains in 2011-12 saw the 6-1, 216 pound forward take the ice in only 68 games. It was through those growing pains that he came to an understanding of his potential and the expectations placed upon him, and with that realization came the scoring touch the Predators desperately wanted to see from him.
“It’s a combination of being comfortable and confident, but at the same time being excited about being on the ice and not taking it for granted,” Wilson said. “I think last year and the years before, when I was a healthy scratch, I would get too comfortable. I think I realized that if I wasn’t playing to my potential, they were going to find someone who would.”
Wilson currently leads Nashville in points (5g-9a-14pts) and has been arguably one of the best players in the League as of late. He has ascended to the top of the Predators leader board due in part to a career-long five-game point streak (Feb.12-19) that has seen him post seven points (2g-5a), including consecutive multi-point efforts (2a vs. DET; 1g-1a vs. COL). Perhaps the most telling stat for third-year forward is the fact that he’s been in on 50 percent of Nashville’s goals in the last 11 games (13-of-26), while the Predators have followed suit, posting a 7-2-2 record during that span.
The Greenwich, Conn., native has been stellar in February, recording the fifth-most points (4g-9a-13pts) in the League this month. That total ranks him behind only Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg, Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek, and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz in point production in 2013’s shortest month.
Those upward-trending stats are a positive for a team that finds itself near the bottom of the goals-for column after averaging 2.18 goals through 17 games this season – a total that has been bolstered by outbursts of four-and-five goals in its last two outings.
“I think he’s learned a lot and he’s making plays when he has the time and space and he’s making the right plays when he doesn’t have the time and space,” forward David Legwand said. “I think that goes a long way when it comes to managing the puck and managing the game. He’s smarter and more confident in those little areas, and that’s a big part of why he’s playing so well right now.”
Many are starting to believe that the real Colin Wilson has finally arrived and Head Coach Barry Trotz thinks that bodes well for the Preds.
“He’s really grown into the player we hoped he’d be and he’s taken on a bigger role because of that,” Trotz said. “He’s our leading scorer and if you look at his totals compared to the rest of the League, he’s right up there with a lot of big-name guys. He can make plays; he sees the ice very well and he keeps adding pieces to his game that will make him a better player. He’s been very good for us this year and he will continue to be a good player for us in the future.”
One person who may know him better than anyone is Wilson’s Boston University teammate, Brandon Yip. Wilson led BU with 55 points (17g-38a) in his final season with the Terriers as they went on to win the 2009 National Championship.
“He’s really playing well and he’s using his strengths; he possesses the puck really well,” Yip said. “He’s able to find guys on the ice and he’s starting to shoot the puck really well. Confidence has always been a big thing with Colin. When he has it, he’s one of the best players out there. You can clearly see that he has a lot of belief in himself and this team by the way he’s playing this year. He has all the tools, so as long as he stays confident, he’s going to be a scary player for us.”
Wilson is playing with more confidence and that self-assurance has earned him an expanded role and more ice time. Looking back, some of Wilson’s newfound confidence may have spawned last year, when he posted a career-high in points (15g-20a-35pts), but he will tell you that understanding his potential has been crucial to his success on the ice this season.
“I think the game has slowed down for me a bit and I’m trying to be better at the little things,” Wilson said. “I’ve learned you have to earn the opportunity to do well in this League. You can’t score from the bench.”